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Ideas at the Intersection

Plus One
A YMCA program that seeks to engage expectant mothers and young families with the facility’s family-centric model

The YMCA in Evanston wanted to spur membership and retention at its facility, specifically among youth and those under age 35. A group of seven MMM students – a dual degree program for innovation that pairs an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management with an MS in Design Innovation from the McCormick School of Engineering – answered that call during a Research, Design, Build course led by MMM co-director Greg Holderfield.

Plus One targets expectant mothers with three programmatic solutions that address phases before and after birth.
Plus One targets expectant mothers with three programmatic solutions that address phases before and after birth.


At the YMCA in Evanston, less than 16 percent of members are under age 35. With consistent struggles attracting and retaining youth and young adults, the community-based facility sought an innovative solution that would drive membership and spotlight the YMCA’s value throughout various stages of life. 

Some of the most compelling business ideas come from a place of real, personal need, and, at the time of this project my wife and I were barely keeping our heads above water with our newborn. This context enabled genuine empathy during the research phase of the project and, ultimately, helped our team develop a meaningful solution to many of the challenges faced by young families.KJ Plank, Plus One, Team member


Plus One targets expectant mothers and young families, seeking to engage them with the facility’s family-centric model. The program introduces three programmatic solutions, each addressing a critical phase before and after birth:

Development Process

To better understand the community’s needs, the Plus One team first immersed themselves in the lives of current and prospective YMCA members. The seven-member group:

That research was organized into storytelling frameworks that highlighted prospective solutions, which were then evaluated for feasibility, viability, and desirability. With prototypes created, the Plus One team shared its solutions with Evanston YMCA leadership for feedback.

Current Status

The YMCA in Evanston as well as some of its sister facilities have adopted Plus One as a primary recruitment and engagement tool, hopeful the three-pronged program can attract new and expectant mothers and showcase the value the YMCA can deliver to their everyday lives and families.

Updated May 2016

Team MembersGerardo de la Piedra, Rodrigo Garza, John Griffin, Tory Lancaster, David Lawrence, KJ Plank, Alex Wearn
Community PartnerYMCA Evanston
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